Roy Exum: A Trucking Nightmare

Thursday, June 12, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
The outgoing traffic on South Broad Street last Friday was the worst in recent memory. Vehicles were on the verge of gridlock, one traffic light blocking the next, and commuters were delayed once again after two trucks collided on I-24. It seems as though it is a daily occurrence and a tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 pounds is quite a gorilla in summertime traffic.

Just hours later “Saturday Night Live” comedian Tracy Morgan was critically injured and a fellow comedian was killed when a sleep-deprived trucker slammed into their car in California. Because the fun-loving Morgan is a celebrity, the nation has learned this week that one-in-seven truck accidents involves “fatigued” operators and we have a growing problem on our highways.

According to a story in USA Today on Wednesday, there was an accident in Illinois over the winter where a toll way worker was killed and a highway patrolman critically injured when a big rig slammed into the back of a parked police cars with its emergency lights on. The driver, it was learned, had been driving 37 ½ hours on three hours of sleep.

In 2003 George Bush gave drivers permission to drive for 11 hours after 10 hours had been the norm for years. In 2009 there were 2,983 fatalities involving over-the-road trucks but by 2012 that number had increased to 3,464. In 2011 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration refused to rescind the extra hour but – as the comedian Morgan struggles to recover – a newfound awareness could make our highways safer.

Not long ago, two large-truck salesmen in the Chattanooga area lamented the constant need for drivers has also increased the risk. “Kids who have no idea what they are doing are receiving a ridiculously small amount of training, are able to get a job anywhere, and then take a rig worth almost $500,000 down the highway at 75 miles per hour. Do you have any idea how long it takes 80,000 pounds of steel to stop!”

It’s true. Pleas for truck drivers dominate the “help wanted” ads and some sources “guarantee” students a seat in a truck cab as soon as they “breathe” the required hours needed for a “for profit” diploma. The lack of oversight is incredible due to the cost/time constraints and a gulping industry. Please, this isn’t to accuse Chattanooga’s largest carriers of any misdoing but they know what is going on in the warped industry better than the law enforcement sector does, this due to heated competition.

Then there is this: the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has been trying to institute a new “restart rule” that has been legally challenged. The rule states a driver who has reached his maximum plateau – 70 hours in an eight-day period – must take 34 hours off. The down time must include two periods of 1 a.m. until 5 a.m. (i.e. when people sleep).

A federal appeals court conceded such evidence was “compelling” but, according to the USA Today account, lobbyists for the trucking industry got Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and 20 of her committee members to suspend the new rule for a year! This is how America really works and, in truth, we are en route to set a greater record for fatalities involving large trucks. Statistics prove it is virtually impossible for Senator Collins’ one-year suspension to have any other outcome.

* * *

When 1-24 West is blocked by a truck wreck, outbound traffic has no recourse except to exit into Georgia and Alabama via the South Broad Street corridor. But ancient two-lane railroad bridges, one on the border of St. Elmo and the other squeezing four-lane traffic into two lanes near Wauhatchie Pike, create a nightmare.

I don’t know how you widen a busy railroad bridge without spending a lot of money but Chattanooga sorely needs to correct this official evacuation route. Several years ago a fabulous four-lane bridge was built between two two-lane railroad underpasses in an unexplainable engineering feat. Why would you build a fabulous four-lane bridge that narrows to one-lane traffic on both sides?

Until officials take the necessary steps, smart drivers have learned South Market Street, which extends to Alton Park, is an ideal alternate route when South Broad is congested. Simply resume your route by passing the St. Elmo post office!

But before politicians begin to make promises, remind them Chattanooga has a well-earned reputation for truck-related traffic snarls and that Senator Collins’ one-year delay is almost as stupid as driving a $500,000 truck 70 hours in eight days.

royexum@aol.com


Keep Jonathan Welch On The School Board

We all know there are problems with the management of our school system.   Fortunately for District 2, Jonathan Welch is not one of them. In the last four years, Jonathan Welch has become acutely aware of what's wrong in the Hamilton County Department of Education.    He not only recognizes the problems, he's worked to identify solutions, and with a reconfigured ... (click for more)

Time For A Change To Kathy Lennon

Although Roy Exum has accurately identified many of the failings of the Hamilton County Education Department and the school board’s culpability in the mess in recent months, he does not support the majority of Hamilton County’s citizens’ opinion that none of the current members of the school board should be re-elected, but insists that one, Jonathan Welch, should be returned to ... (click for more)

SEC Freezes Accounts Of 2 Chattanooga Brokers Accused Of Diverting $5 Million Raised From Investors

The Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday announced it has won a court-ordered asset freeze to halt an ongoing fraud by two former Chattanooga brokers with disciplinary histories who allegedly raised more than $5 million from investors without using the money as promised.  In an emergency action filed in Federal Court in Chattanooga, the SEC alleges that James Hugh ... (click for more)

Downtown Landmark The James Building Sold For The 2nd Time In 2 Years

A longtime downtown Chattanooga landmark, the James Building, has been sold just two years after trading hands. The former owners of Rivermont Golf and Country Club bought the 12-story office building in May 2014 from Luken Holdings for $5.1 million. Rivermont James Building LLC has now sold the skyscraper for $5,868,000. The sale was to Dew James LLC. Knoxville attorney ... (click for more)

Thompson, Mason Win Scenic City Scorcher With Record Times

(Story will be updated) Saturday was another record-setting day for runners in Chattanooga. The occasion was the second running of the Scenic City Scorcher, a flat and fast two-mile race in Heritage Landing. Christian Thompson and Rachel Mason were overall winners and both did so in record-breaking time.  Thompson was all alone in first with a time of nine ... (click for more)

CCS Names Eddie Salter, Ben Wharton As New Basketball, Baseball Coaches

Chattanooga Christian School announced that Coach Eddie Salter is returning to the men’s basketball program as the Varsity Head Coach for 2016-2017. He will be joined by Chattanooga Christian alumnus, Ben Wharton, who has been named the Varsity Head Coach of the men’s baseball program and the Junior Varsity Men’s Basketball Coach.  Former Varsity Head Basketball Coach ... (click for more)